Skip to comments.Is it True Armed Civilians Have Never Stopped a Mass Shooting?
Posted on 12/27/2012 2:48:21 PM PST by neverdem
In response to last week's massacre in Connecticut, Mother Jones has put together a "study" on mass shootings that makes a pretty bold claim:
In the wake of the slaughters this summer at a Colorado movie theater and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, we set out to track mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years. We identified and analyzed 62 of them, and one striking pattern in the data is this: In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun.
There are a couple of major problems here with arguing that armed civilians don't stop mass shootings. One is that when armed civilians are present, they often stop mass shootings before they can become mass shootings. One of the criteria Mother Jones used to define mass shootings is that "the shooter took the lives of at least four people." So then, consider the following:
Mayan Palace Theater, San Antonio, Texas, this week: Jesus Manuel Garcia shoots at a movie theater, a police car and bystanders from the nearby China Garden restaurant; as he enters the movie theater, guns blazing, an armed off-duty cop shoots Garcia four times, stopping the attack. Total dead: Zero.
Winnemucca, Nev., 2008: Ernesto Villagomez opens fire in a crowded restaurant; concealed carry permit-holder shoots him dead. Total dead: Two. (Im excluding the shooters deaths in these examples.)
Appalachian School of Law, 2002: Crazed immigrant shoots the dean and a professor, then begins shooting students; as he goes for more ammunition, two armed students point their guns at him, allowing a third to tackle him. Total dead: Three.
Santee, Calif., 2001: Student begins shooting his classmates as well as the trained campus supervisor; an off-duty cop who happened to be bringing his daughter to school that day points his gun at the shooter, holding him until more police arrive. Total dead: Two.
Pearl High School, Mississippi, 1997: After shooting several people at his high school, student heads for the junior high school; assistant principal Joel Myrick retrieves a .45 pistol from his car and points it at the gunmans head, ending the murder spree. Total dead: Two.
Edinboro, Pa., 1998: A student shoots up a junior high school dance being held at a restaurant; restaurant owner pulls out his shotgun and stops the gunman. Total dead: One.
These are just a few examples of mass shootings being prevented. I'm sure there are many more that meet this criteria. But, as you can see, in every incident, the would-be shooters were stopped short of killing four people because an armed civilianor in some cases, an off duty copwas present.
The individual circumstances of some of the shooting incidents don't always suggest that armed civilians would not have stopped the mass shootings that have taken place. For instance, the Luby's cafeteria shooting in Kileen, Texas that killed 23 people and is the third deadliest in U.S. history is well-known among gun rights activists. That's because one of the women in the restaurant, Suzanna Hupp, whose husband was wounded and mother killed by the gunman, reached into her purse to retrieve her .38 before realizing she'd left it in her truck. The circumstances surrounding the Nidal Hasan shootingwhich occurred at Ft. Hood in Kileen just a few miles from Luby'salso raise questions. Despite the fact that nearly everyone on the Army base was extensively trained to use guns, soldiers at Ft. Hood were not allowed to carry them. While planning his attack, Hasan must surely have been aware of this fact and soldiers at Ft. Hood understandably questioned this policy after the shooting.*
Secondarily, aside from being fallacious, their claim that "not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun" also raises a host of issues being that it is a conditional claim. Notice the word "civilian"? It's true that mass shootings are often stopped by police. But is that because they are uniquely qualified to stop mass shootings or that they stop killers simply by virtue of the fact that they are generally the first people to arrive on the scene carrying guns? Again, Mother Jones provide no data on this. Here's the sum total of their argument on this point:
Armed civilians attempting to intervene are actually more likely to increase the bloodshed, says Hargarten, "given that civilian shooters are less likely to hit their targets than police in these circumstances." A chaotic scene in August at the Empire State Building put this starkly into perspective when New York City police officers confronting a gunman wounded nine innocent bystanders. (Dr. Stephen Hargarten is a source cited in the Mother Jones article.)
There are some terrific, heroic police officers out there and I don't want to diminish their service. But there are also some terrible cops, as well. The fact that police would wound nine innocent people when confronted by a gunman doesn't mean we can assume that armed civilians would have somehow managed to shoot even more people. It might just be the opposite:
Newsweek has reported that law-abiding American citizens using guns in self-defense during 2003 shot and killed two and one-half times as many criminals as police did, and with fewer than one-fifth as many incidents as police where an innocent person mistakenly identified as a criminal (2% versus 11%).
I suppose the assumption that cops are better equipped to carry guns than civilians hinges on the fact that they are trained to handle guns. But so are military veterans, and there are millions of them who have likely as much or more firearms training as the average cop. Finally, it's also true that there are many people who have never had any law enforcement and military training yet are skilled and responsible firearms owners who are temperamentally well-suited to handle potential threats. Mother Jones makes no serious argument that arming more civilians wouldn't (be) effective in preventing mass shootings.
I understand the impulse to do something in the wake of the horror that we witnessed in Connecticut last week. But Mother Jones's "study" is little more than a series of ideological fallacies propped up with cherry-picked data. If Mother Jones is serious about having a debate on guns, they had better hold themselves to much higher standards than this.
*UPDATE: I originally wrote that Mother Jones study was problematic because the list of shooting incidents did not include the Luby's shooting. It turns out that they did include the shooting, but it was only visible after zooming in multiple times on their map of shooting incidents. The article has been revised to reflect that.
Just this year in Tacoma a mass shooting was stopped by the mere sight of a citizen with a gun. The perp broke off his attack and killed himself.
Law abiding citizens are not armed in a “gun free zone”.
IIRC, I read somewhere the Batman movie theater murderer just ‘conincidentally’ picked a theater NOT closest to home AND that had a ‘no guns’ policy and signage.
to do that I’d have to buy a copy.
now if theres a copy someone would lend me...
This “study” is the only place I have seen a mass shooting defined as 4 deaths, instead of 3. How convenient when the average deaths of shootings when an armed citizen is involved is less than 4.
List of Mass Shootings or potential mass shootings stopped by armed citizens:
Thank you, Lama!
"So, I will find total enlightenment. I guess I've got that going for me."
(Something like that from "Caddy Shack".)
Here is another rebuttal to the MJ article.
Because they would be happy to see you (and other "gun nuts" like you) on that list?
Mother Jones is loony lib crap. They are only “mass shootings” BECAUSE nobody stops them. When someone armed stops them they don’t proceed unchecked into “mass shootings
Thanks for the link. That is a good accounting to have at hand.
Even if true, it matters not one iota to me. My interest is in protecting myself, my family, and my property.
Don’t forget the recent mall shooter that killed himself after he saw a CC holder drawing down on him. Then there was the guy that had to run 1,000+ feet to get his gun and get the drop on the shooter at a college out in TN (I think) a couple years ago. Of course, there is the all time favorite of the armed impromptu posse of Texas boys with deer rifles that helped pin down and take out Charles Whitman back in the early 1960’s.
Go back a century or more and most all the bad guys got taken out with the trash by John Q. Public.
Unarmed civilians have stopped just as many elephant rampages in malls as armed civilians have, therefore, guns aren’t necessary. /s
I've been arguing this point since I was in my teens in the 60's and said to a peacenik hippie: "If you came across a thug in an alley and he had a weapon and you had a weapon, would you actually lay yours down first hoping he would do the same?" The dipshit said, "Yes, peace brother."
From that day on I knew there are some people who just don't deserve to live and I'm ok if they just die yesterday (we all do). Even with their best of intentions, their rhetoric and behavior embolden the bad guys against the rest of us who would defend our lives, our family, our friends and our Country.
Liberals, socialists, Marxists, and communists are a bain on civilization as we have seen and still seeing. Imperialists were just as bad, but those days are long past except for parts of Africa. Now it's not so much about conquering, but about ideology and who gets what (not too far from the communes of the 60's). There are countless books with millions of pages that have said what I just expressed above. But then I'm not a scholar, but I have stayed at a Holiday Inn.
Two things about the Mother Jones “study”. They do not count a former police officer or an off duty police officer as an “armed citizen”, when in fact, they are functionaly the same; and they make no mention of the fact that nearly all the mass shootings occured in “gun free” zones.
The Slate article is mild rebuttal. They miss several events. Better than nothing, I guess.
How are “Law Abiding Armed Citizens” supposed to stop these shootings if they cannot bring their guns into these gun free zones...?
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